Updated at 10:45 a.m. EST on 2015-03-09
A 47-year old woman living in a Tibetan county in western China's Sichuan province burned herself to death late Thursday night in a protest against Chinese policies in Tibetan areas, becoming the 137th known case of self-immolation by Tibetans since the fiery protests began in 2009, sources told RFA's Tibetan service.
The Tibetan woman, Norchuk, set herself ablaze in a hay barn in her village of Trotsuk in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. She was a constituent of Tephu monastery and had recently taken a vow to become a lifelong vegetarian, the sources said.
Norchuk's remains were cremated next day by members of her village to prevent them from being taken by authorities, sources said.
She is survived by her husband and by one son and two daughters.
Norchuk's death came amid a heightened security presence in many Tibetan areas that locals say is aimed both at intimidating Tibetans now celebrating religious observances during the Lunar New Year and at preventing protests on the coming March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule.
Before the Feb. 18 Losar (New Year) holiday, large numbers of Chinese security forces were deployed to Tibetan-populated areas of Sichuan and Qinghai provinces in a bid to deter anti-China protests. The measures included checkpoints examining vehicles on major roads and police equipped with fire extinguishers and have fire trucks standing by to respond to self-immolations.
Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of the March 10 uprising, and Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008. The self-immolations were committed to show opposition to Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Paul Eckert.
CORRECTION: This version gives updated information regarding Norchuk's age and the date of her protest received by new sources with contacts in Ngaba.